Quick thoughts on the new Google-Bar

When Larry Page took over the reins from Eric Schmidt, apparently one of his first decrees was that all of Googles properties were to look prettier. A team of designers came up with the new design, featuring greys, curry reds, whites and a black top-bar which featured sharing options and notifications. Now the black bar is being rid of, in favor of a more minimal Google Bar:

This is what it looks like in my Gmail (by the way, if you haven’t received this bar yet, here’s how you can get it now):

googlebar

Collapsing the black bar certainly gives some much welcome extra room (especially welcome in Maps and Reader). Also, I personally never used the plethora of links that sat right at the top of the page starting from left, so the collapsing of those into a dropdown menu makes some sort of sense.

The new bar is now without weirdness, though. First of all, in the implementation I’ve tried (by using the cookie hack linked earlier), the Google logo dropdown menu invokes on both hover and click. I’m personally a fan of click, since hover always feels slow to me, but it gets weird if you’re used to the Google logo taking you to the homepage. Take Gmail, for example, clicking the Gmail logo (which by the way is gone now), you’d be taken to your inbox. To get to your inbox now, you have to click the left-arrow that sits on top of your email.

It’s also a bit wierd that the Google.com homepage features a different Google-bar:

newgoogle

… it’s obvious when you think about it, of course: you can’t have two colorful logos and two searchboxes competing on the same page. Oh by the way, that black dropdown shown in the screenshot above is not invoked by yours truly, it’s now shown by default when you visit the Google homepage. But at least they killed off the horrific white fade they had a while back.

It’s clear Google is in a state of flux at the moment. Some products are killed off, others are mutilated. At the same time, Google is prettier and more consistent than ever. Here’s hoping the dust settles at some point, and what made Google cool gets reintroduced.

A couple of quick notes on Googles new profiles

Google just revamped their profiles:

We think this new design helps highlight the information that’s most important to you, making it easier for people who visit your profile to get to know you. As the new layout gradually rolls out, current users of Google Profiles will notice that their existing profile will automatically update to the new style. To update and add to your profile, simply click on the new “Edit Profile” button.

Here’s my revamped profile, and here are my thoughts about it:

  • It’s good. It’s easy to scan, it’s very easy to create and edit, and it’s a nice overall upgrade to the old style profiles.
  • It’s not very pretty. The cleanliness of Googles white color hasn’t bled through and while I’m all for making it easier on the eyes by muting down a bright white, the odd result of gradients, drop shadows and baby blues muddies it all quite a bit.
  • Just the other day, I used “truth to materials” as a subtle criticism of a drop shadow that didn’t blend realistically considering the z-index of layers if one considered a website to be physical. It’s worse here; the the white sheet’s left shadow breaks the physics for me. Go on, point at me and laugh for pointing out something so nitpicky. But it gets to me, subconsciously, and my eyes can’t rest knowing the visuals are off like this.
  • I wonder what a filled-out profile means for search results.
  • Hey, it looks like Google finally got the message, and separated Google Buzz out from Gmail! Maybe it’s useful now!
  • Click the “Buzz” tab. Now click the “About” tab again. Fast isn’t it? Must be AJAX. Nerds: notice that the URL doensn’t contain the infamous #! slug. This is HTML5 boys and girls.
  • It comforts me that profile items you don’t fill out, don’t show up at all on your profile. There’s nothing worse than an item that says “Gender: Won’t say”.

I’d like a redesign, but everything else about this, I kinda like. That said, it’s no-where near replacing my about.me/joen profile in my email signature yet.

Quick thoughts on Googles new redesigned topbar

Google has just rolled out a redesigned topbar for all users. Visit Google.com to see it:

google_topbar

Google is notorious for non-design, though clearly times are changing. Buttons are styled, drop shadows are added. More importantly, links are no longer underlined. For me, that’s the big one.

Certainly the web is transforming, and usability rules are transforming from “don’t style form elements” to “if you style a form elements, make sure they look like form elements”. Are we seeing a similar trend in hyperlink usability? Is the color blue at least sacred?

Android 3.0 SDK preview reveals flat UI goodness

Google has released a preview for the Android 3 SDK, and it’s choc-full of UI goodness, including:

android3_mail

What’s so special about Android mail? Well it’s one of the plain apps, an app that is likely to be used the most on Android devices, and it’s got to be designed to just work, and from that perspective, this is one gorgeous piece of UI design. It’s deliciously almost flat, a design trend I expect to see explode like Apples noisy backgrounds. It’s got very few lines, and it’s got a delicious color palette. Dark blacks contrasting gray and white with a splash of accent color — Matias Duarte clearly gets contrast. It’ll look gorgeous on an OLED screen.

Which brings me to the System Bar — that line at the bottom which holds soft buttons for back, home and multitask, the notification bar, a clock, and battery info.

Wait, always present?

According to the SDK preview, yes.

But isn’t that a waste of precious pixels?

Depends on your point of view. The thing doesn’t use more than 48 pixels, and so it’s probably not a coincidence that these screenshots betray a device that’s 1280×800 px in resolution. That’s HD (1280×720) + 80 pixels. So this particular Android device will be able to play an HD video that’s almost perfectly vertically centered, while still permanently having a system bar present. Combine that with an OLED screen which uses the least power displaying the color black, and I approve.

Three thoughts on WikiLeaks

A few recent discussions on WikiLeaks has made me collect my thoughts on the website. Since I’ve changed my mind in the past, I’ve found it interesting to jot down my thoughts in a searchable, archived manner, so I can look back and see when I changed my mind. Which I’ll do now. So here are my three things about WikiLeaks:

I abhor anyone who tries to close WikiLeaks through force, political pressure, threats or circumvention of the law. If anyone is to blame for a leak that shouldn’t have gotten out, it’s the source of the leak, i.e. the person who uploaded files to the WikiLeaks website.

I’m not a particular fan of WikiLeaks, or Julian Assange. Neither of those things matter, because no matter how much Assange wants it to be about him, it’s really not.

Because the thing about WikiLeaks is that — like Pandoras Box — once opened, you cannot close it again. You can’t bring back a file an embassy once it’s been mirrored. You can’t unsee a cable once read. You can’t unleak a leak; once the snow is yellow, it’s yellow until we don’t care about it anymore and it melts on its own. It’s so easy to build a WikiLeaks-like website — it’s so easy to make leaking 100% anonymous. Even if Joe Lieberman and team PayPal somehow managed to close down WikiLeaks and all its mirrors and delete all leaked cables and documents, a new leak site would spring up like a mushroom. Whether you, I, or the government like this or not, this is now the world we live in. There’s no going back. The only way to move forward is for governments to conduct business in a way that survives transparency.

Android 3.0 Honeycomb tidbits shown on Moto tablet [Update]

The trickle has become a steady flow of juicy Google stuff. Now Andy Rubin shows off Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” on a prototype Motorola tablet. Nice. Bullet-list thoughts:

  • New minimalist lock screen. Nice.
  • Having used the iPad, I’m not in the market for an LCD tablet. I want a Pixel Qi (“color e-ink”) tablet.
  • The buttons in the bottom left of this image, vaguely resemble “back”, “home”, and “something” buttons. Could that be software button replacements for the notorious Android hardware buttons? If so, cheers all around!
  • … if they are indeed software button replacements, what a brilliant place to put them. One problem with the iPad browser is that the back button is the desktop-logical upper-left corner, far away from your fingers.
  • What a clean main UI. Through the blur, it looks like the notification tray holds a google search field, voice input field, apps drawer and “configure” dropdown. The main screen looks configurable like Android is as usual — widgets, apps where you want them. The bottommost dock is nowhere to be found, which makes sense for a tablet since that’s not something you have in your pocket, hence not in the need of super duper real estate for the dialer and the browser.
  • The fact that the app drawer is intact, hints that the Android “configurable homescreen” paradigm is intact. This is in contrast to the iOS approach, which puts every app you install on your homescreen, and uninstalls every app you remove from your homescreen. The latter makes a lot of sense, but it looks like Google is running and iterating with the former approach.

Next on the Google menu: Google Chrome OS and Chrome Web Apps.

[Update]: The tablet does indeed have software-only system buttons. That’s awesome. Here’s the video.

Google Nexus S — a few quick thoughts

In other news, Google is continuing the Nexus brand and come December 16th, US people can buy an unlocked “Google-experience” phone with “pure” Android — that is, Android without third party vendor skins like HTC Sense. Which means it’s most likely going to be the best Android phone on the market, and certainly the one you should be comparing to the iPhone. It’s all in this motion-pamphlet:

Some thoughts.

Nexus S

  • Check out the Galaxy S like “S” in the Nexus S logo.
  • I love that the Nexus brand survived.
  • “You’re always going to be getting the latest upgrades, and the latest software”. Sounds like Google is trying to compete with the other Android vendors, which is both good and bad. Good in that the Nexus series is alive for purists like me, bad because it probably means Google won’t be enforcing stricter rules on competing Android distributions.

Skin

home-lg

  • So everyone expected this to be the groundbreaking tablet-ready UI. Considering it’s clearly not, I do think there’s a fairly remarkable amount of change going on.
  • Black means “elegant”, and it’s elegant for the topmost menubar, especially in its flat form. I’m thinking the previous white one looked like it did, bevel and all, to indicate its drag-down-ability. I think perhaps Google realized that the notification tray is something you simply have to learn, and once you have, you know what to do.
  • Another reason black makes a lot of sense, is that on a phone featuring an AMOLED display, black brings better battery life.
  • Green makes a lot of sense as an accent color, considering Googles Android logo is green.
  • The UI certainly looks a lot more polished when watching this video.
  • I may be reading too much into this, but it looks as though the shading on the various notification icons is similar to the one on Chrome Web Store icons.

Features

  • “The fastest version of Android yet”, is something any OS developer can tout. They’d better mean it — not that Froyo wasn’t fast, but it had still better be noticable.
  • “Tools for game development”, that’s nice! Android has needed its own “DirectX” for a while.
  • Lots of under the hood improvements. That’s fine. Still no Chrome browser though.
  • Ooh! New keyboard! I hope it gets a Danish dictionary.

Gingerbread was rumoured to be the watershed moment for Android. Looks like that’s been postponed to “Honeycomb”, the rumoured next release. Still, it looks like a solid upgrade. I only hope that they’ve actually fixed the problem with data being stored on the ridiculously small amount of internal storage. That, and that the Nexus S. comes to Denmark.